Flames cap fall season with defensive duel at Virginia Tech
November 3, 2017 | Blacksburg, Va.
Being ranked third behind two-time defending tournament champion Georgia Tech and Northwest Region rival Virginia Tech in this week's SouthEastern Lacrosse Conference (SELC) Preseason Coaches Poll provided Liberty University's men's lacrosse team with all the incentive it needed going into Friday night's scrimmage against the Hokies in Blacksburg, Va., a 6-4 Flames triumph.
"To come out with a victory against a tough team like Virginia Tech on its home soil is a good feeling, especially after what they did to us last fall," Liberty Head Coach Kyle McQuillan said, referring to a 14-4 setback to the Hokies last Nov. 5 at the Liberty Lacrosse Field. "That cast a shadow over us in the rankings and put us into a hole that we had to dig ourselves out of. It was good to be able to go in and repay the favor."
The Flames rallied in the fourth quarter to tie the contest on a goal by sophomore midfielder Carter Elliott before sophomore attack Eli Elliott netted the game-winner and junior attack Sam Gregory added an insurance goal.
"We were trailing pretty much the entire game until we were able to tie it up in the fourth quarter and get a couple goals late," McQuillan said. "It's fall ball, but it was a good opportunity for both teams to test themselves against good opponents, and for us to hopefully see some of the hard work we've put in come to fruition. Compared with where we were last year at this time, we're well ahead."
McQuillan threw his freshman class, which included six defenders, into the fire and they rose to the challenge to help the Flames emerge victorious in the defensive-oriented showdown.
"It was a little more of a defensive battle than we anticipated," he said, considering last year's 14-13 regular-season-ending loss at Virginia Tech, decided in triple overtime. "It was a scrappy game, and it's always a lot of fun to be a part of. The focus was really on team lacrosse, coming together as a unit, and tonight was a good example of that. Both defenses played really well and were the strength of both teams tonight."
Freshman Mateo Zumpano moved up from midfield to start for the Flames on attack and ignited the offense, scoring the game's first goal.
"We played a handful of guys in tough situations, including some freshmen, and they showed that we continue to bring in guys who can make an impact right away," McQuillan said.
Liberty junior goalie Brayden Harriman played all 60 minutes between the pipes and made some exceptional saves.
"If we were to give a game ball, he would have gotten it," McQuillan said. "He played excellent. To be able to hold Virginia Tech to four goals was a testament both to our defense and our goalie. He kept it close for us, so we had an opportunity in the fourth quarter to come back and get the victory."